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Apprenticeships Scheme

When my firm (Pepper (UK) Limited), took on its first apprentice in 2015 it was with a philanthropic mindset.  Pepper was doing well and wanted to give back to the local community by providing learning opportunities for younger people.  We didn’t expect to see any significant return for 18 months, so it was a huge surprise that the first couple of apprentice cohorts became trusted and valued members of the Pepper Family within 6 months of joining, with a number securing permanent roles before completing their studies.  Over the years, our original mindset has altered so that apprenticeships are now a strategic tool to invest in growing talent for the future.

In the seven years since we made our commitment to Apprentices, the program has grown and we have learned a lot, and so during National Apprenticeship week I wanted to share a few tips to encourage other firms to consider taking advantage of the apprentice levy and the fantastic talent you can grow within your business.

Existing Employees – No problem!

A common misconception is that you need to hire in apprentices.  This is not true.  At Pepper we have opened out our apprentice program to enhance the skill set of existing employees through our Steer Your Career Program.  It is a fantastic opportunity for employees to continue their learning journey through employment all the way up to level 7 qualifications.

Age is no Barrier!

Apprentices are not just school leavers.  You need to be aged 16, but there is no upper age limit, and it is the perfect route for people looking for a change in career.  We have existing staff over 50 who are adding to their skill set through apprenticeship programs and are hiring apprentices in their 30s and 40s who are looking to change career.

Existing Qualifications – that’s fine!

You can start an apprenticeship whether you’re starting your career, want a change or you’re upskilling in your current job. You can have a previous qualification like a degree and still start an apprenticeship.

You do not have to be paying the Apprentice Levy to take on Apprentices!

If you are an employer with a pay bill over £3million per year, you will receive funds from the government to train and assess your employees.  If you are a levy payer, this is a no-brainer because the government offers co-investment of 90% even after you have exhausted your funding!

But this doesn’t mean a small organisation cannot take advantage of the benefits of Apprentices.  A non-levy payer needs to pay just 5% towards the cost of training and assessing your apprentice.  To put that into context, this means you could put your apprentice through the Clinical Associate in Psychology (CAP) (Integrated Degree) which ordinarily costs £16000.00 and have a bill of just £800.00.

Apprenticeships cover most professions!

You might be thinking that apprenticeships are only for the trades or specific professions.  This is simply not the case.  There are apprenticeships available from Level 2 (GCSE) all the way up to level 7 (master’s degree), and they offer professional and vocational opportunities from transport and logistics to agriculture, health and science and legal, finance and accounting – to name just a few!  Check out the list of standards here – I guarantee you will be surprised.

What did I learn from Apprenticeships?

Having offered apprenticeships for 7 years now, I have learned a lot, not just about the process but about the outstanding calibre of people that choose this pathway.  When we started, I thought we were simply giving back to the community, but the surprise for us is that we now have senior specialists in our firm who have been promoted multiple times and are existing role models and future leaders.

University is not the only route to career success, and not the only solution to wanting a change in career.  The option to “earn as you learn” is very attractive, and apprenticeships are for everyone, regardless of age, previous qualification, or experience.

So, come one, what is really holding you back?  Get out there and find yourself a talented apprentice to grow with and contribute to the success of your organisation today!

Find out more here:

Claire Lish

Head of Professional Development


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